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Lewis Morris / November 12, 2020

Trump’s Deregulation Record

The president did more to free us from red tape than any modern predecessor.

One of the major accomplishments President Donald Trump likes to tout in his (first?) four years in office is deregulation. Cutting back on the seemingly endless red tape that hamstrings the private sector was a key campaign promise that helped elect Trump in 2016. His ability to deliver on that promise is what helped Trump draw even more votes in 2020.

We noted earlier this year the scope of Trump’s deregulation, which included reducing the length of environmental review necessary for infrastructure projects and rolling back Barack Obama’s unrealistic fuel-economy standards. At the time, the president claimed that his deregulatory crusade had provided the average American household with an extra $3,100 per year.

What impact did Trump’s attempts at deregulation truly have on the country? While his administration claims that Trump significantly deregulated the country, recent independent analyses by various organizations argue that his work in this regard may be good but also a bit exaggerated.

The Penn Program on Regulation at the University of Pennsylvania asserted in a recent report that Trump’s deregulatory accomplishments are not nearly as great as the president claims. The Mercatus Center and the Competitive Enterprise Institute both cut the administration a little more slack. Analysts there point out that while the aggregate number of regulations in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) continued to grow during the Trump administration, “more significant rules have been removed than added.” It’s also worth noting that Trump halted the continued rise of new regulations being added to the CFR, a trend going back to the George H.W. Bush administration, and nearly flattened it.

While it’s a stretch to say that Trump truly deregulated the country, he certainly ratcheted back the growth of regulation significantly. He also was able to save taxpayers money and give the private sector a boost at the same time. The strong economic growth pre-COVID and the surprising resilience of the post-COVID economic rebound are testaments to his accomplishments.

The regulatory burden that America has suffered in recent times is a price we pay for the larger, intrusive, and pervasive government that Democrats have been foisting on us for decades. It’s also the fault of Congress, which has abdicated much of its constitutional duties to the federal bureaucracy, giving unelected career apparatchiks the power to make rules that govern our commerce and our lives instead of spelling out specifics in the laws passed by Congress. The bureaucracy grows unchecked while members of Congress avoid making tough decisions so they can focus on what they really want to do — get reelected and stay in office indefinitely.

President Trump’s record in reining in the federal bureaucracy and our out-of-control regulatory state has been greater than any president in recent memory, Republican or Democrat. Because much of his work was conducted via executive order, it may be frustratingly easy for a President Joe Biden to use executive orders to reverse much of that good work. Voters must continue to hold the president and Congress to account to keep the regulatory state from swallowing us whole.

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